To be clear, Live Listen is an accessibility feature that lets users who are hearing impaired use MFi-certified hearing aids with their iPhones. It can also turn a pair of AirPods into de facto hearing aids — even though Apple’s Bluetooth headphones aren’t a replacement for an actual, doctor-prescribed hearing aid.
Because of that fact, Live Listen is likely used by most AirPods users for another reason entirely: spying or eavesdropping.
Essentially, the Live Listen feature can turn anyone’s iPhone into a microphone. Just activate it and point your iPhone at someone a fair distance away, and you’ll be able to hear their conversation much more clearly. This is useful for eavesdropping on conversations that are just ever-so-slightly out of your hearing range.
You can even use Live Listen to turn your iPhone into an “audio bug.” Just turn Live Listen on and leave your iPhone or iOS device in a room. When you leave, just take your AirPods with you. You’ll be able to hear any noise or conversation going on in that room, as long as the Bluetooth range holds.
That feature can even be activated on a user’s iPad or Apple Watch device, increasing the super-spy potential of Live Listen even further.
Of course, it’s at this point that we’ll say that you shouldn’t spy on people. In fact, in some states or countries, illegally recording or eavesdropping on people without their knowledge may be against the law. Check your local jurisdiction before proceeding.
With that being said, knowing how Live Listen works could even help you avoid being spied on. So, in the interest of information, we’ll outline how to use Live Listen.
How to Use Live Listen
The easiest way to use Live Listen is to add the option to your Control Center. Keep in mind that you’ll need AirPods and an iOS device running iOS 12 to continue.
- Go to Settings on your iOS device.
- Tap on Control Center.
- Then, tap on Customize Controls.
- Find the Hearing control and add it to your Control Center by tapping the green + icon next to it.
Once it’s in your Control Center, you can activate the feature by swiping down from the top-right of your iOS device (or bottom-center, depending on model). Just tap the Hearing icon.
As long as you have AirPods connected, you should start hearing sounds being amplified at this point. On your iPhone, you should also see a sound meter appear.
You can always adjust specific settings for Live Listen by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > MFi > Hearing Devices. You can set the volume or change the AirPods to a specific preset here.